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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1550

Ms FATIN(4.27) —I begin my comments today by saying that it is not novel or unusual for Australia to present an independent approach to politics in Indo-China. The Fraser Government did so in 1981 when it changed Australia's recognition of the ousted regime. Australia moved from supporting and recognising the ousted Pol Pot regime to non-recognition of either regime, and this move was made despite the protests of the Association of South East Asian Nations. The latest decision on Australia's approach to the Cambodian situation is in line with a wholly reasonable desire on Australia's part to maintain a relatively independent stance.

I am pleased to join in this debate today because last week I had the privilege of being a member of a two-person observer delegation in Singapore at the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Organisation Sixth General Assembly. That delegation was able to participate at that Assembly both formally and informally. On Thursday last, 6 October, we participated formally in a panel for dialogue between the five ASEAN nations and the Australian delegation. During that dialogue frank discussion took place, and points of view on five major topics were discussed. The topic most discussed was Australia's position on Kampuchea. There was certainly no evidence of a growing crisis-concern, yes, but crisis, no. The honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) referred to great trouble in our region. I suggest that the ASEAN nations are not aware of this great trouble, nor were any of the other nations attending that assembly. The five ASEAN states put forward their views, as I said, firmly and frankly. They expressed their disappointment at the fact that Australia would not co-sponsor the United Nations resolution on Kampuchea. It was equally forcefully and firmly stated that Australia would vote for the ASEAN resolution. Australia supports the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops; it supports an act of self-determination for the Kampuchean people; it supports guaranteed borders for all territories in the region; and it supports the re-establishment of a normal relationship between the countries of the region.

It is true that Australia does not intend to co-sponsor this year, but co- sponsorship should not be blown out of proportion. The resolution is not the same as it was last year. Australians have not forgotten the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia under Pol Pot. The Pol Pot forces make up the largest part of the coalition supported in the ASEAN resolution. Last year, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) said, a number of countries, friendly to ASEAN, did not co-sponsor the resolution. They included the United States of America, China , France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Greece, Burma, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In fact, the only new co-sponsor at this stage this year is the Maldives.

What we have to recognise is that, when we have a policy which is carefully reasoned, is thoroughly responsible and moderate in its presentation and is appropriate in all the circumstances, if it is in our national interest we should persist with it. We regret the ASEAN decision to postpone the ASEAN- Australian forum, which is a meeting intended to benefit the ASEAN countries and Australia in a practical way. It is of particular regret as it seems to ignore the fact that Australia is supporting the ASEAN resolution in the United Nations General Assembly. We support the same underlying elements contained in the ASEAN resolution. The issue of co-sponsorship has been blown out of proportion. A relationship of mutual respect must be worked out between ASEAN and Australia. ASEAN must not have the expectation that Australia will automatically follow its lead. We have international obligations which we must meet and, in doing so, must not be expected by ASEAN to follow it always without question. If we did this, we would be moulding a relationship which would be both patronising and meaningless. It would also be totally counterproductive.

We must bear in mind that Australia and her South East Asian neighbours have different ways of looking at regional and international political situations. It is important that we should not try to conceal these differences. If we do not conceal our differences, when ASEAN countries hear an Australian point of view they will know that it is being honestly given and that it reflects the consensus of Australian attitudes. Some Press items have exaggerated current differences between Australia and ASEAN over handling Cambodia at the United Nations. For instance, when I was in Singapore last week, I read about the so- called walkout of the Malaysian Foreign Minister. However, reports that he had walked out of the United Nations chamber before the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, had finished his address to the General Assembly misinterpreted what occurred. The Malaysian Foreign Minister left before the end of the speech. However, this was in order to attend a luncheon which our Foreign Minister later attended too. We understand that the ASEAN countries wish to postpone the ASEAN- Australian forum of senior officials in Sydney later this month. As I have said, this is regrettable. Nevertheless, the relationship is in quite good shape. Differences of emphasis with ASEAN are not new, as I have said. I refer to previous cases such as the Khmer Rouge regime's United Nations credentials and the civil aviation policy of previous years.

The Foreign Minister is to be congratulated for his active political participation in South East Asia. Since he became Foreign Minister, he has travelled to all the ASEAN nations to hold friendly and frank dialogue with them . I experienced some of that frank dialogue last week. I have to admit that at times it was very direct but for friends it is best, I suggest, that direct dialogue take place and that differences of opinion be expressed and listened to . Our Foreign Minister has travelled around South East Asia recognising that the countries he visited have differences with us and we with them. He has listened to and discussed with them the problems that are mutual to our region. This country is part of South East Asia and proudly takes its place in the region. It is also part of the international community and, as such, must develop and maintain an active, responsible and non-restrictive role there.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The discussion is concluded.